Fine Art Museum gets new director

David J. Brown, a longtime arts professional experienced in many facets of arts and cultural organizations, has been named director of the WCU Fine Art Museum.

“David has worked in North Carolina a number of years in the arts and brings a localized perspective to a national outlook on arts in our communities,” said Robert Kehrberg, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts, which oversees the museum.

David Brown

Brown, of Winston-Salem, has worked in the field of art and visual culture for more than 25 years. Since 2010, he has worked as an arts management consultant. From 2007-10, he was deputy director of the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Va., where he transitioned the 50-year-old institution into a new facility. Brown also has served in leadership and administrative roles with the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati and the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

“Some of the most rewarding times of my career have been in collaboratively creating unique and meaningful intersections with students, artists and the community, and I view the entire WCU campus and region as vibrant partners full of potential,” Brown said.

WCU’s Fine Art Museum opened in 2005 with a focus on education, community outreach and development of a permanent collection of high artistic merit. Brown fills a position left vacant by founding director and curator Martin DeWitt’s retirement in December 2010. Curatorial specialist Denise Drury has served as interim director of the museum for the past 2½ years.


WCU-planned events in Dillsboro win international awards


For the second time in less than a year, events that faculty, staff and students helped plan, publicize and produce as part of Western Carolina University’s partnership with the town of Dillsboro have won awards from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals. The Dillsboro Mobile Web App Launch Party held in March 2012 recently landed one of eight gold awards in the association’s Hermes Creative Award special events category. Meanwhile, another WCU project team won an AMCP Communitas Award in November 2012 for helping significantly increase attendance during a holiday event the previous year.


Smartphone users meet the Dillsboro Mobile Man (right), an 8-foot-tall costumed character emblazoned with a QR code allowing access to a mobile website.

“Dozens of faculty, staff and students from across the university contributed hundreds of hours on just these two events, and we were successful because of their expertise, commitment and willingness to make a difference in our community,” said Betty Farmer, professor of communication and special assistant to the chancellor for Dillsboro.

Initiated in 2009, the Dillsboro/WCU Partnership is a universitywide effort designed to match WCU expertise and support with Dillsboro’s challenges and opportunities. Computer information students and faculty within the College of Business worked with Dillsboro business owners and community members to create The mobile Web application connects smartphone users to the town’s businesses and attractions, and features business and town information including turn-by-turn directions, social media links, promotions, special events and weather. To publicize the release of the app, public relations students and faculty developed a campaign that included a launch party held at Dillsboro’s historic Jarrett House. The event featured a countdown timer to the app’s launch, an “Experience Dillsboro” giveaway and the Dillsboro Mobile Man, an 8-foot-tall costumed character designed and created by faculty and staff in WCU’s School of Stage and Screen. Escorted at the event by Paws, WCU’s mascot, the character wore a QR code enabling smartphone users to scan to be immediately directed to the mobile website.

Meanwhile, the Dillsboro project won a Communitas Award for bringing larger crowds to the 2011 Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries. Communitas is a Latin word that means people coming together for the good of a community, and AMCP judges said that the Dillsboro 2011 luminaries event “clearly exhibits communitas.”

To promote the 28th annual luminaries event, Farmer and her students designated the festival’s opening evening as WCU Night and planned special activities and prizes just for faculty, staff and students. Not only did merchants report increased sales and visitors, but also said they had customers return. In addition, merchants donated $550, a portion of their proceeds from WCU Night, to a charitable organization in support of the WCU Poverty Project.

“Dillsboro is so proud to have been chosen to partner with WCU on this venture,” said Susan Leveille, co-owner of longtime Dillsboro business Oaks Gallery with husband Bob Leveille MBA ’87. “The partnership has been great for all of us. We have learned so very much from each other and about each other and have developed a relationship that I hope will continue.”


Alumni and friends create new endowed scholarships

Western Carolina University alumni and friends are continuing to answer Chancellor David O. Belcher’s call to provide the additional financial support needed to create more endowed scholarships for WCU students.

Belcher identified raising funds for endowed scholarships as the university’s No. 1 philanthropic priority, in order to ensure access to higher education for all capable students, during his installation address in March 2012.

Through endowments of at least $10,000, scholarship assistance to deserving students can be awarded on an annual basis in perpetuity. Several new endowed scholarships have been added to the books between April 1 and June 30 of this year. They are:

Steven C. Jones Endowed Scholarship Fund (for inclusive education majors); donors Eva Jones and Jacob Jones.

Dr. Janice H. Holt Endowed Scholarship Fund (for students in the Whee Teach Program); donors Adam R. Holt ’05 MSA ’10, Robert L. Holt ’73 and David L. Holt in memory of Janice Holt ’76 MAEd ’77 EdS ’87 EdD ’12.

Construction Management Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund (for construction management majors); donors include alumni of the construction management program.

Mickey and Sondra H. Pettus Alpha Xi Delta Endowed Scholarship Fund (for students in Epsilon Gamma Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta sorority); donors Mickey Pettus ’75 and Sondra Pettus ’76.

Coach Bob Waters Football Walk-On Endowed Scholarship Fund (for walk-on student-athletes on the intercollegiate football team); donor Dan Brooks ’76.

Clarence Claude Teagarden Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund (for business administration and law majors); donors include the late Clarence Claude Teagarden Jr. and colleagues from the College of Business.

Wells Fargo Endowed Scholarship Fund (for accounting, finance, information systems and economics majors); donor Wells Fargo Foundation.

John Davies Memorial Football Endowed Scholarship Fund (for a member of the intercollegiate football team); donor James Williston “Bill” Klugh ’72.

Kathleen Wright Endowed Scholarship Fund (for communication majors); donor Donald Connelly.

McCracken Family Scholarship Fund (for Honors College students); donor Sandra Jayne McCracken ’65.

Kenneth M. Hughes/Dixon Hughes Goodman Endowed Scholarship Fund (for accountancy majors with preference given to students from Yancey and Buncombe counties or Western North Carolina); donor Kenneth M. Hughes ’74.

Berniece Lloyd/Nancy Potts Coward Endowed Scholarship Fund (for Honors College students); donors Carolyn and Orville Coward Jr.

Paul and Nora Jones Endowed Athletic Scholarship Fund (for a student-athlete on an intercollegiate team); donors Paul Jones ’69 MAEd ’70 and Nora Jones MAEd ’87.


Professor García-Castañón’s poem wins international honor

A bilingual poem by Santiago García-Castañón, professor of Spanish and head of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages was one of 20 finalists in an international poetry contest organized by La Pereza publishing house. The poem, titled “Una noche en compañía/Night Company,” is from García-Castañón’s forthcoming poetry collection “Objetos Desechables/Disposable Objects.”

He also recently traveled to Argentina for the release of his sixth poetry collection, “Equis (X),” during the Buenos Aires International Book Fair. In addition to his books of poetry, his publications include two novels as well as scholarly publications.


Academic review process results in discontinuation of several programs


Chancellor David O. Belcher announced in July that the university will proceed with the phased discontinuation of 10 of the 13 academic programs previously recommended by a campus task force for closure. Belcher also announced that programs in motion picture and television production, Spanish and Spanish education, which had been recommended for discontinuation, will be retained, with program directors responsible for developing plans to make improvements.

Programs to be discontinued are a bachelor’s degree program in German; master’s degree programs in health and physical education, mathematics, mathematics education, music, music education and two master’s programs related to teaching English to speakers of other languages; and a minor in women’s studies.

In addition, several programs have agreed to voluntarily discontinue operations because of low enrollment or similarity to other programs available at WCU. Those programs are undergraduate minors in American studies, Appalachian studies, broadcast sales, broadcast telecommunications engineering technology, digital communications engineering technology, earth sciences and multimedia; an undergraduate program in business designed as a second major for nonbusiness students; and master’s degree programs in chemistry education and teaching music.

Belcher accepted all other recommendations as presented in May by the Academic Program Prioritization Task Force, which spent the past year thoroughly examining 130 programs as part of an effort to give WCU leaders information to guide decisions regarding the best allocation of limited resources and to ensure that the university remains focused on strong academic programs aligned to its mission.

In addition to recommending some programs for discontinuation, the task force recommended that the majority of programs be retained at current resource levels. Those 96 programs are categorized as functioning at appropriate levels. The task force also assessed eight programs as “truly exceptional and high-performing,” and designated them for potential enhancement as additional resources become available. Those eight are bachelor’s degree programs in emergency medical care, environmental science, natural resource conservation and management, nursing, parks and recreation management, and recreational therapy; and master’s degree programs in communication sciences and disorders, and social work.

The task force identified five programs as needing to develop action plans to address weaknesses and take steps toward improvement: an undergraduate minor in residential environments; bachelor’s programs in middle grades education, and stage and screen; and master’s programs in chemistry, and elementary and middle grades education.

Programs slated for discontinuation will not close immediately. The university will “teach out” students in those programs or help them transition into a similar program at WCU or to another institution. Decisions to eliminate academic programs are subject to the approval of the University of North Carolina system and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, WCU’s official regional accrediting agency.

Detailed information can be found at

Mini Golf

Art students create miniature golf course

Five students constructed the Wacky Western Miniature Golf course when challenged with using line, color, mass and other kinetic elements to present risks and rewards as part of a three-dimensional design honors project.

Angel Butler, Jessica Grant, Katana Lemelin, Elizabeth Mosher and Cole Johnson primarily used found and secondhand materials to build the course. They placed works of art within the holes and incorporated challenges such as requiring a golfer to send a ball through a Slinky.

The course made its debut on campus in May and will open again Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Jackson County Green Energy Park’s Youth Arts Festival in Dillsboro.


New Deans Named for Graduate School, College of Health and Human Sciences


Two new faces – one familiar and one fresh – joined the ranks of Western Carolina University’s Council of Deans over the summer. Douglas Robert Keskula, formerly associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Allied Health Sciences at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Ga., is now dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, while Mimi Fenton, who had been serving as interim dean of the Graduate School and Research since July 2012, is that academic unit’s permanent leader.

Keskula had been in his position at Georgia Regents University, formerly the Medical College of Georgia, since 2009. He filled a vacancy created by the summer 2012 departure of Linda Seestedt-Stanford, founding dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, who left WCU to become vice president of health sciences at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va. In his role as associate dean at GRU, Keskula had been responsible for the development of new and expanded programs, student and faculty recruitment, curricula revisions, programmatic accreditation, distance learning and the integration of educational technology in the classroom.

Keskula garnered broad support among the faculty and staff of the College of Health and Human Sciences during his interview, said James Zhang, dean of the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology, who chaired the search committee. “We had a pool of outstanding candidates for the dean’s position. Dr. Keskula’s academic background, leadership experience and vision for the future of the college made him the best fit for the position,” Zhang said.

Fenton, a professor of English, has been leading WCU’s graduate programs and research activities since the retirement of the previous dean, Scott Higgins, who stepped down in June 2012 after 31 years of service to the university. A faculty member at WCU since 1992, Fenton previously served as associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences from 1997 until 1999 and as director of graduate studies in English from 1995 to 1997.

“Mimi has done a wonderful job in her year as interim dean and has implemented significant initiatives to improve the efficiency of both the graduate studies side of the operation and the research administration side,” said Mark Lord, acting provost at the time of the dean appointments. “She worked closely with program directors on strategies to increase enrollment, initiated a summer research assistantship program and restructured the Office of Research Administration.”


Alumni Association announces election results

The 2013 Alumni Association board of directors election has closed, and five new members are joining the slate of representatives. Elected to serve three-year terms that expire at the end of 2015:

From District 1, Timothy E. Gillespie ’86, of Asheville. District 1 consists of the N.C. counties of Alleghany, Alexander, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Rutherford, Polk, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey.

From District 2, Benjamin “B.J.” Pendry ’07, of Charlotte. District 2 consists of the N.C. counties of Alamance, Anson, Cabarrus, Caswell, Catawba, Cleveland, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union and Yadkin.

From District 3, Allison Hinson Kenney ’02 ME ’05, of Chapel Hill. District 3 consists of the N.C. counties of Bladen, Chatham, Columbus, Cumberland, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Nash, Northampton, Orange, Person, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Vance, Wake, Warren and Wilson.

From District 4, Jillian Hardin ’99, of New Bern. District 4 consists of the N.C. counties of Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Gates, Greene, Hertford, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrell, Washington and Wayne.

From District 5, James “Josh” Paris ’01, of Alpharetta, Ga. District 5 consists of all states except North Carolina.


Two new members appointed to WCU Board of Trustees

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has appointed two new members to the Western Carolina University Board of Trustees, including alumnus Kenny Messer ’86, an executive with Milliken Corp. Joining Messer on the WCU board this fall is Phil Drake, chief executive officer of Drake Enterprises. The appointments are for four-year terms. The UNC system governing body also re-appointed current trustees Edward Broadwell Jr. of Asheville, retiring in November as chairman and CEO of Home Trust Bank, and Southern Pines businessman George Little to four-year terms.

A resident of Greenville, S.C., Messer is global business director of specialty chemical and packaging at Milliken & Co. in Spartanburg, S.C. He is a past president and member of both the WCU Alumni Association Board of Directors and the Catamount Club Board of Directors. Messer served on the search committee that helped select David O. Belcher as chancellor in 2011 and was part of the 2020 Commission, a 36-member committee that led a strategic planning process to guide the university’s direction and development over the next decade.

A native of Franklin, Drake began developing tax software in 1977. His companies now employ more than 500 people in businesses that include accounting, retail, software, dining, theater, golf, printing, Internet service, family entertainment, construction and fiber optics. A frequent guest speaker for business students at WCU, he was a member of the WCU Millennial Initiative Select Committee, which helped develop strategies for the university’s comprehensive regional economic and community development effort.

Drake and Messer fill vacancies created by the departure of Joan MacNeill, board chair, and former N.C. Sen. Steve Metcalf, both of whom reached the end of their terms June 30. MacNeill, a co-founder and former president of the Great Smoky Mountains Railway in Dillsboro, was named by the N.C. Senate to the 32-member Board of Governors.

The UNC board selects a total of eight trustees for each campus of the university system, and the governor appoints four. Appointments from the governor are forthcoming. In addition, the president of the WCU Student Government Association is an ex-officio member of the WCU Board of Trustees.